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“Master Harold” ... and the Boys 

Athol Fugard 


CAST: 

Willie Malopo: a middle-aged black man employed by a middle-class white family, owners of a tea-room 
Sam Semela: a middle-aged black man, a little bit older and wiser that Willie, employed by the same family 
Hally: seventeen-year-old white boy, high-school student, whose parents own the tearoom 

The St. George's Park Tea Room on a wet and windy Port Elizabeth {on the SE coast of South Africa} 
afternoon. 

Tables and chairs have been cleared and are stacked on one side except for one which stands apart with a 
single chair. On this table a knife, fork, spoon and side plate in anticipation of a simple meal, together with a 
pile of comic books. 

Other elements: a serving counter with a few stale cakes under glass and a not very impressive display of 
sweets, cigarettes and cool drinks, etc.; a few cardboard advertising handouts - Cadbury's Chocolate, Coca- 
Cola - and a blackboard on which an un trained hand has chalked up the prices of Tea, Coffee, Scones, 
Milkshakes - all flavors - and Cool Drinks; a few sad ferns in pots; a telephone; an old-style jukebox. 

There is an entrance on one side and an exit into a kitchen on the other. 

Leaning on the solitary table, his head cupped in one hand as he pages through one of the comic books, is 
Sam. A black man in his mid-forties. He wears the white coat of a waiter. Behind him on his knees, mopping 
down the floor with a bucket of water and a rag, is Willie. Also black and about the same age as Sam. He has 
his sleeves and trousers rolled up. 

The year: 1950 

WILLIE: [Singing as he works.] 

“She was scandalizin' my name, 

She took my money 

She called me honey 

But she was scandalizin' my name, 

Called it love but was playin' a game 

He gets up and moves the bucket. Stands thinking for a moment, then, raising his arms to hold an imaginary 
partner, he launches into an intricate ballroom dance step. Although a mildly comic figures, he reveals a 
reasonable degree if accomplishment. 

Hey, Sam. 

Sam, absorbed in the comic book, does not respond. 

Hey, Boet {brother, pal, comrade} Sam! 

Sam looks up. 

I'm getting it. The quickstep. Look now and tell me. [He repeats the step.] Well? 

SAM: [Encouragingly.] Show me again. 

1 



WILLIE: Okay, count for me. 

SAM: Ready? 

WILLIE: Ready. 

SAM: Five, six, seven, eight . . . [Willie starts to dance.] A-n-d one two three four . . . and one two three four 
. . . [Ad libbing as Willie dances.] Your shoulders, Willie . . . your shoulders! Don't look down! Look happy, 
Willie! Relax, Willie! 

Willie: [Desperate but still dancing.] I am relax. 

SAM: No, you're not. 

WILLIE: [He falters.] Ag no man, Sam! Mustn't talk. You make me make mistakes. 

SAM: But you're too stiff. 

WILLIE: Yesterday I'm not straight . . . today I'm too stiff! 

SAM: Well, you are. You asked me and I'm telling you. 

WILLIE: Where? 

SAM: Everywhere. Try to glide through it. 

WILLIE: Guide? 

SAM: Ja, make it smooth. And give it more style. It must look like you're enjoying yourself. 

WILLIE: [Emphatically.] I wasn't. 

SAM: Exactly. 

WILLIE: How can I enjoy myself? Not straight, too stiff and now it's also glide, give it more style, make it 
smooth . . . Haai! Is hard to remember all those things, Boet Sam. 

SAM: That's your trouble. You're trying too hard. 

WILLIE: I try hard because it is hard. 

SAM: But don't let me see it. The secret is to make it look easy. Ballroom must look happy, Willie, not like 
hard work. It must ... Ja! ... it must look like romance. 

WILLIE: Now another one! What's romance? 

SAM: Love story with happy ending. A handsome man in tails, and in his arms, smiling at him, a beautiful 
lady in evening dress. 

WILLIE: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers. 


2 



SAM: You got it. Tapdance or ballroom, it's the same. Romance. In two weeks' time when the judges look at 
you and Hilda, they must see a man and a woman who are dancing their way to a happy ending. What I saw 
was you holding her like you were frightened she was going to run away. 

WILLIE: Ja! Because that is what she wants to do! I got no romance left for Hilda anymore, Boet Sam. 
SAM: Then pretend. When you put your arms around Hilda, imagine she is Ginger Rogers. 

WILLIE: With no teeth? You try. 

SAM: Well, just remember, there's only two weeks left. 

WILLIE: I know, I know! ( To the jukebox .] I do it better with music. You got sixpence for Sarah Vaughan? 
[20th-c. U.S blues & jazz singer] 

SAM: That's a slow foxtrot. You're practicing the quickstep? 

WILLIE: I'll practice slow foxtrot. 

SAM: [ Shaking his head.] It's your turn to put money in the jukebox. 

WILLIE: I only got bus fare to go home. [He returns disconsolately to his work.] Love story and happy 
ending! [....] Three nights now she doesn't come practice. I wind up gramophone, I get record ready and I 
sit and wait. What happens? Nothing. Ten o'clock I start dancing with my pillow. You try and practice 
romance by yourself, Boet Sam. Struesgod, she doesn't come tonight I take back my dress and ballroom 
shoes and I find me new partner. Size twenty-six. Shoes size seven. And now she's making trouble for me 
with the baby again. Reports me to Child Wellfed, that I'm not giving her money. She lies! Every week I am 
giving her money for milk. And how do I know is my baby? Only his hair looks like me. She's 
[messingjaround all the time I turn my back. Hilda Samuels is a [bad woman]! [Pause.] Hey, Sam! 

SAM: Ja. 

WILLIE: You listening? 

SAM: Ja. 

WILLIE: So what you say? 

SAM: About Hilda? 

WILLIE: Ja. 

SAM: When did you last give her a hiding? 

WILLIE: [Reluctantly.] Sunday night. 

SAM: And today is Thursday. 

WILLIE: [He knows what's coming.] Okay. 

SAM: Hiding on Sunday night, then Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday she doesn't come to practice . . . and 
you are asking me why? 


3 



WILLIE. I said okay, Boet Sam! 

SAM: You hit her too much. One day she going to leave you for good. 

WILLIE: So? She make me the hell-in too much. 

SAM: [Emphasizing his point.] Too much and too hard. You had the same trouble with Eunice. 

WILLIE: Because she also make the hell-in, Boet Sam. She never got the steps right. Even the waltz. 

SAM: Beating her up every time she makes a mistake in the waltz? [Shaking his head.] No, Willie! That 
takes the pleasure out of ballroom dancing. 

WILLIE: Hilda is not too bad with the waltz, Boet Sam. Is the quickstep where the trouble starts. 

SAM: [Teasing him gently.] How's your pillow with the quickstep? 

WILLIE: [Ignoring the tease.] Good! And why? Because it got no legs. That's her trouble. She can't move 
them quick enough, Boet Sam. I start the record and before halfway Count Basie {U.S. jazz musician} is 
already winning. Only time when we catch up with him is when the gramophone runs down. 

[Sam laughs.] 

Haaikona [meaning: no way}, Boet Sam, is not funny. 

SAM: [Snapping his fingers.] I got it! Give her a handicap. 

WILLIE: What's that? 

SAM: Give her a ten-second start and then let Count Basie go. Then I put my money on her. Hot favorite in 
the Ballroom Stakes. Hilda Samuels ridden by Willie Malopo. 

WILLIE: [Turning away.] I'm not talking to you no more. 

SAM: [Relenting.] Sorry, Willie . . . 

WILLIE: It's finish between us. 

SAM: Okay, okay . . . I'll stop. 

WILLIE: [Sam!] 

SAM: I promise. 

WILLIE: Okay. Help me. 

SAM: [His turn to hold an imaginary partner.] Look and learn. Feet together. Back straight. Body relaxed. 
Right hand placed gently in the small of her back and wait for the music. Don't start worrying about making 
mistakes or the judges or the other competitors. It's just you, Hilda and the music, and you're going to have a 
good time. What Count Basie do you play? 


4 



WILLIE: "You the cream in my coffee, you the salt in my stew." 

SAM: Right. Give it to me in strict tempo. 

WILLIE: Ready? 

SAM: Ready. 

WILLIE: A-n-d . . .[Singing.] "You the cream in my coffee. You the salt in my stew. You will always be my 
necessity. I'd be lost without you . . ." (etc.) 

Sam launches into the quickstep. He is obviously a much more accomplished dancer than Willy. Hally enters. 
A seventeen-year-old white boy. Wet raincoat and school case. He stops and watches Sam. The 
demonstration comes to an end with a flourish. Applause from Hally and Willie. 

HALLY: Bravo! No question about it. First place goes to Mr. Sam Semela. 

WILLIE: [In total agreement .] You was gliding with style, Boet Sam. 

HALLY : [Cheerfully.] How's it, chaps? 

SAM: Okay, Hally. 

WILLIE: [Springing to attention like a soldier and saluting.] At your service, Master Harold! 

HALLY: Not long to the big event, hey! 

SAM: Two weeks. 

HALLY: You nervous? 

SAM: No. 

HALLY : Think you stand a chance? 

SAM: Let's just say I'm ready to go out there and dance. 

HALLY : It looked like it. What about you, Willie? 

Willie groans. 

What's the matter? 

SAM: He's got leg trouble. 

HALLY: [Innocently. Oh, sorry to hear that, Willie. 

WILLIE: Boet Sam! You promised. [Willie returns to his work.] 

Hally deposits his school case and takes off his raincoat. His clothes are a little neglected and untidy: black 
blazer with school badge, gray flannel trousers in need of an ironing, khaki shirt and tie, black shoes. Sam 
has fetched a towel for Hally to dry his hair. 


5 



HALLY: [Gosh], what a lousy bloody day. It's coming down cats and dogs out there. Bad for business, chaps 
. . . [ Conspiratorial whisper .] . . . but it also means we're in for a nice quiet afternoon. 

SAM: You can speak loud. Your Mom's not here. 

HALLY : Out shopping? 

SAM: No. The hospital. 

HALLY: But it's Thursday. There's no visiting on Thursday afternoons. Is my Dad okay? 

SAM: Sounds like it. In fact, I think he's going home. 

HALLY: [Stopped short by Sam's remark .] What do you mean? 

SAM: The hospital phoned. 

HALLY : To say what? 

SAM: I don't know. I just heard your Mom talking. 

HALLY : So what makes you say he's going home? 

SAM: It sounded as if they were telling her to come and fetch him. 

Hally thinks about what Sam has said for a few seconds. 

HALLY : When did she leave? 

SAM: About an hour ago. She said she would phone you. Want to eat? 

Hally doesn 't respond. 

Hally, want your lunch? 

HALLY: I suppose so. [His mood has changed .] What's on the menu ... as if I don't know. 

SAM: Soup, followed by meat pie and gravy. 

HALLY: Today's? 

SAM: No. 

HALLY : And the soup? 

SAM: Nourishing pea soup. 

HALLY: Just the soup. [The pile of comic books on the table.] And these? 

SAM: For your Dad. Mr. Kempston brought them. 


6 



HALLY: You haven't been reading them, have you? 

SAM: Just looking. 

HALLY: [Examining the comics .] Jungle Jim . . . Batman and Robin . . . Tarzan . . . [Gosh], what rubbish! 
Mental pollution. Take them away. 

Sam exits waltzing into the kitchen. Hally turns to Willie. 

HALLY : Did you hear my Mom talking on the telephone, Willie? 

WILLIE: No, Master Hally. I was at the back. 

HALLY : And she didn't say anything to you before she left? 

WILLIE: She said I must clean the floors. 

HALLY : I mean about my Dad. 

WILLIE: She didn't say nothing to me about him, Master Hally. 

HALLY: [With conviction .] No! It can't be. They said he needed at least another three weeks of treatment. 
Sam's definitely made a mistake. [Rummages through his school case, finds a book and settles down at the 
table to read.] So, Willie! 

WILLIE: Yes, Master Hally! Schooling okay today? 

HALLY: Yes, okay . . . [He thinks about it.] . . . No, not really. Ag, what's the difference? I don't care. And 
Sam says you've got problems. 

WILLIE: Big problems. 

HALLY : Which leg is sore? 

Willie groans. 

Both legs? 

WILLIE: There is nothing wrong with my legs. Sam is just making jokes. 

HALLY : So then you will be in the competition. 

WILLIE: Only if I can find me a partner. 

HALLY : But what about Hilda? 

SAM: [Returning with a bowl of soup.] She's the one who's got trouble with her legs. 

HALLY : What sort of trouble, Willie? 

SAM: From the way he describes it, I think the lady has gone a bit lame. 


7 



HALLY : [Goodness gracious] ! Have you taken her to see a doctor? 

SAM: I think a vet would be better. 

HALLY : What do you mean? 

SAM: What do you call it again when a racehorse goes very fast? 

HALLY: Gallop! 

SAM: That's it! 

WILLIE: Boet Sam! 

HALLY: "A gallop down the homestretch to the winning post." But what's that got to do with Hilda? 

SAM: Count Basie always gets there first. 

Willie lets fly with his slop rag. It misses Sam and hits Hally. 

HALLY: [Furious.] For [Pete’s] sake, Willie! What the hell do you think you're doing! 

WILLIE: Sorry, Master Hally, but it's him . . . 

HALLY: Act your bloody age! [Hurls the rag back at Willie.] Cut out the nonsense now and get on with 
your work. And you too, Sam. Stop fooling around. 

Sam moves away 

No. Hang on. I haven't finished! Tell me exactly what my Mom said. 

SAM: I have. "When Hally comes, tell him I've gone to the hospital and I'll phone him." 

HALLY : She didn't say anything about taking my Dad home? 

SAM: No. It's just that when she was talking on the phone . . . 

HALLY: [Interrupting him.] No, Sam. They can't be discharging him. She would have said so if they were. 

In any case, we say him last night and he wasn't in good shape at all. Staff nurse even said there was talk 
about taking more X-rays. And now suddenly today he's better? If anything, it sounds more like a bad turn to 
me . . . which I sincerely hope it isn't. Hang on . . . how long ago did you say she left? 

SAM: Just before two . . . [His wrist watch.] . . . hour and a half. 

HALLY: I know how to settle it. [Behind the counter to the telephone. Talking as he dials.] Let's give her ten 
minutes to get to the hospital, ten minutes to load him up, another ten, at the most, to get home and another 
ten to get him inside. Forty minutes. They should have been home for at least half an hour already. [Pause - 
he waits with the receiver to his ear.] No reply, chaps. And you know why? Because she's at his bedside in 
hospital helping him pull through a bad turn. You definitely heard wrong. 

SAM: Okay. 


8 



As far as Hally is concerned, the matter is settled. He returns to his table, sits down and divides his attention 
between the book and his soup. Sam is at his school case and picks up a textbook, Modem Graded 
Mathematics for Standards Nine and Ten. Opens it at random and laughs at something he sees. 

Who is this supposed to be? 

HALLY : Old fart-face Prentice. 

SAM: Teacher? 

HALLY: Thinks he is. And believe me, that is not a bad likeness. 

SAM: Has he seen it? 

HALLY: Yes. 

SAM: What did he say? 

HALLY: Tried to be clever, as usual. Said I was no Leonardo da Vinci and that bad art had to be punished. 
So, six of the best, and his are bloody good. 

SAM: On your bum? 

HALLY : Where else? The days when I got them on my hands are gone forever, Sam. 

SAM: With your trousers down! 

HALLY : No. He's not quite that barbaric. 

SAM: That's the way they do it in jail. 

HALLY: [Flicker of morbid interest .] Really? 

SAM: Ja. When the magistrate sentences you to "strikes with a light cane." 

HALLY: Go on. 

SAM: they make you lie down on a bench. One policeman pulls down your trousers and holds your ankles, 
another one pulls your shirt over your head and holds your arms . . . 

HALLY: Thank you! That's enough. 

SAM: . . . and the one that gives you the strikes talks to you gently and for a long time between each one. 

[He laughs .] 

HALLY: I've heard enough, Sam! [ . . . ] It's a bloody awful world when you come to think of it. People can 
be real [cruel], 

SAM: That's the way it is, Hally. 

HALLY : It doesn't have to be that way. There is something called progress, you know. We don't exactly burn 
people at the stake anymore. 


9 



SAM: Like Joan of Arc. 


HALLY : Correct. If she was captured today, she'd be given a fair trial. 

SAM: And then the death sentence. 

HALLY: [A world-weary sigh.\ I know, I know! I oscillate between hope and despair for this world as well, 
Sam. But things will change, you wait and see. One day somebody is going to get up and give history a kick 
up the backside and get it going again. 

SAM: Like who? 

HALLY: [After thought.] They're called social reformers. Every age, Sam, has got its social reformer. My 
history book is full of them. 

SAM: So where's ours? 

HALLY : Good question. And I hate to say it, but the answer is: I don't know. Maybe he hasn't even been 
born yet. Or is still only a babe in arms at his mother's breast. [Gosh], what a thought. 

SAM: So we just go on waiting. 

HALLY: Ja, looks like it. [Back to his soup and the book.] 

SAM: [Reading from the textbook.] "Introduction: In some mathematical problems only the magnitude . . ." 
[He mispronounces the word "magnitude . "] 

HALLY: [Correcting him without looking up.] Magnitude. 

SAM: What's it mean? 

HALLY : How big it is. The size of the thing. 

SAM: [Reading.] "... a magnitude of the quantities is of importance. In other problems we need to know 
whether these quantities are negative or positive. For example, whether there is a debit or credit bank balance 

I! 

HALLY : Whether you're broke or not. 

SAM: "... whether the temperature is above or below Zero ..." 

HALLY: Naught degrees. Cheerful state of affairs! No cash and you're freezing to death. Mathematics won't 
get you out of that one. 

SAM: "All these quantities are called . . ." [Spelling the word.] . . . s-c-a-1 . . . 

HALLY: Scalars. 

SAM: Scalars! [Shaking his head with a laugh.] You understand all that? 

HALLY: [Turning a page.] No. And I don't intend to try. 


10 



SAM: So what happens when the exams come? 

HALLY : Failing a maths exam isn't the end of the world, Sam. How many times have I told you that 
examination results don't measure intelligence? 

SAM: I would say about as many times as you've failed one of them. 

HALLY: [ Mirthlessly .] Ha, ha, ha. 

SAM: [ Simultaneously .] Ha, ha, ha. 

HALLY : Just remember Winston Churchill didn't do particularly well at school. 

SAM: You've also told me that one many times. 

HALLY: Well, it just so happens to be the truth. 

SAM: [ Enjoying the word.] Magnitude! Magnitude! Show me how to use it. 

HALLY: [After thought.] An intrepid social reformer will not be daunted by the magnitude of the task he has 
undertaken. 

SAM: [Impressed.] Couple of jaw-breakers in there! 

HALLY: I gave you three for the price of one. Intrepid, daunted and magnitude. I did that once in an exam. 
Put five of the words I had to explain in one sentence. It was half a page long. 

SAM: Well, I'll put my money on you in the English exam. 

HALLY : Piece of cake. Eighty percent without even trying. 

SAM: [Another textbook from Hally's case. ] And history? 

HALLY : So-so. I'll scrape through. In the fifties if I'm lucky. 

SAM: You didn't do too badly last year. 

HALLY: Because we had World War One. That at least had some action. You try to find that in the South 
African parliamentary system. 

SAM: [Reading from the history textbook.] "Napoleon and the principle of equality." Hey! This sounds 
interesting. "After concluding peace with Britain in 1802, Napoleon used a brief period of calm to in - sti - 
tute ..." 

HALLY : Introduce. 

SAM: "... many reforms. Napoleon regarded all people as equal before the law and wanted them to have 
equal opportunities for advancement. All ves - ti - ges of the feu - dal system with its oppression of the poor 
were abolished." Vestiges, feudal system and abolished. I'm all right on oppression. 

HALLY : I'm thinking. He swept away . . . abolished . . . the last remains . . . vestiges ... of the bad old days 
. . . feudal system. 


11 



SAM: Ha! There's the social reformer we're waiting for. He sounds like a man of some magnitude. 

HALLY: I'm not so sure about that. It's a damn good title for a book, though. A man of magnitude! 

SAM: He sounds pretty big to me, Hally. 

HALLY : Don't confuse historical significance with greatness. But maybe I'm being a bit prejudiced. Have a 
look in there and you'll see he's two chapters long. And hell! . . . has he only got dates, Sam, all of which 
you've got to remember! This campaign and that campaign, and then, because of all the fighting, the next 
thing is we get peace Treaties all over the place. And what's the end of the story? Battle of Waterloo, which 
he loses. Wasn't worth it. No, I don't know about him as a man of magnitude. 

SAM: Then who would you say was? 

HALLY : To answer that, we need a definition of greatness, and I suppose that would be somebody who . . . 
somebody who benefited all mankind. 

SAM: Right. But like who? 

HALLY: [He speaks with total conviction .] Charles Darwin. Remember him? That big book from the library. 
The Origin of the Species. 

SAM: Him? 

HALLY: Yes. For his Theory of Evolution. 

SAM: You didn't finish it. 

HALLY: I ran out of time. I didn't finish it because my two weeks was up. But I'm going to take it out again 
after I've digested what I read. It's safe. I've hidden it away in the Theology section. Nobody ever goes in 
there. Any anyway who are you to talk? You hardly even looked at it. 

SAM: I tried. I looked at the chapters in the beginning and I saw one called "The Struggle for an Existence." 
Ah ha, I thought. At last! But what did I get? Something called the mistletoe which needs the apple tree and 
there's too many seeds and all are going to die except one . . . ! No, Hally. 

HALLY: [Intellectually outraged.] What do you mean, No! The poor man had to start somewhere. For 
[Goodness] sake, Sam, he revolutionized science. Now we know. 

SAM: What? 

HALLY : Where we come from and what it all means. 

SAM: And that's a benefit to mankind? Anyway, I still don't believe it. 

HALLY: [Gosh], you're impossible. I showed it to you in black and white. 

SAM: Doesn't mean I got to believe it. 

HALLY : It's the likes of you that kept the Inquisition in business. It's called bigotry. Anyway, that's my man 
of magnitude. Charles Darwin! Who's yours? 


12 



SAM; [Without hesitation.] Abraham Lincoln. 

HALLY: I might have guessed as much. Don't get sentimental, Sam. You've never been a slave, you know. 
And anyway we freed your ancestors here in South Africa long before the Americans. But if you want to 
thank somebody on their behalf, do it to Mr. William Wilberforce. {Early 19th-c. English abolitionist}. 

Come on. Try again. I want a real genius. [Now enjoying himself, and so is Sam. Hally goes behind the 
counter and helps himself to a chocolate.] 

SAM: William Shakespeare. 

HALLY: [No enthusiasm.] Oh. So you're also one of them, are you? You're basing that opinion on only one 
play, you know. You've only read my Julius Caesar and even I don't understand half of what they're talking 
about. They should do what they did with the old bible: bring the language up to date. 

SAM: That's all you've got. It's also the only one you've read. 

HALLY: I know. I admit it. That's why I suggest we reserve our judgment until we've checked up on a few 
others. I've got a feeling, though, that by the end of this year one is going to be enough for me, and I can give 
you the names of twenty-nine other chaps in the Standard Nine class of the Port Elizabeth Technical College 
who feel the same. But if you want him, you can have him. My turn now. [Pacing.] this is a damned good 
exercise, you know! It started off looking like a simple question and here it's got us really probing into the 
intellectual heritage of our civilization. 

SAM: So, who is it going to be? 

HALLY: My next man . . . and he gets the title on two scores: social reform and literary genius ... is Leo 
Nikolaevich Tolstoy. 

SAM: That Russian. 

HALLY : Correct. Remember the picture of him I showed you? 

SAM: With the long beard. 

HALLY: [Trying to look like Tolstoy.] And those burning, visionary eyes. My [goodness], the face of a 
social prophet if ever I saw one! And remember my words when I showed it to you? Here's a man, Sam! 

SAM: Those were words, Hally. 

HALLY : Not many intellectuals are prepared to shovel manure with the peasants and then go home and 
write a "little book" called War and Peace. Incidentally, Sam, he was somebody else who, to quote, "... did 
not distinguish himself scholastically." 

SAM: Meaning? 

HALLY : He was also no good at school. 

SAM: Like you and Winston Churchill. 

HALLY: [Mirthlessly.] Ha, ha, ha. 


13 



SAM: [ Simultaneously .] Ha, ha, ha. 

HALLY : Don't get clever, Sam. That man freed his serfs of his own free will. 

SAM: No argument. He was a somebody, all right. I accept him. 

HALLY: I'm sure Count Tolstoy will be very pleased to hear that. Your turn. Shoot. [Another chocolate from 
behind the counter .] I'm waiting, Sam. 

SAM: I've got him. 

HALLY : Good. Submit your candidate for examination. 

SAM: Jesus. 

HALLY: [Stopped dead in his tracks .] Who? 

SAM: Jesus Christ. 

HALLY: Oh, come on, Sam! 

SAM: The Messiah. 

HALLY: Ja, but still . . . no, Sam. Don't let's get started on religion. We'll just spend the whole afternoon 
arguing again. Suppose I turn around and say Mohammed? 

SAM: All right. 

HALLY: You can't have them both on the same list! 

SAM: Why not? You like Mohammed, I like Jesus. 

HALLY: I don't like Mohammed. I never have. I was merely being hypothetical. As far as I'm concerned, the 
Koran is as bad as the Bible. No. Religion is out! I'm not going to waste my time again arguing with you 
about the existence of God. You know perfectly well I'm an atheist . . . and I've got homework to do. 

SAM: Okay, I take him back. 

HALLY: You've got time for one more name. 

SAM: [After thought .] I've got one I know we'll agree on. A simple straightforward great Man of Magnitude . 
. . and no arguments. And he really did benefit all mankind. 

HALLY : I wonder. After your last contribution I'm beginning to doubt whether anything in the way of an 
intellectual agreement is possible between the two of us. Who is he? 

SAM: Guess. 

HALLY : Socrates? Alexandre Dumas? Karl Marx? Dostoevsky? Nietzsche? 

Sam shakes his head after each mane. 


14 



Give me a clue. 


SAM: The letter P is important . . . 

HALLY: Plato! 

SAM: . . . and his name begins with an F. 

HALLY : I've got it. Freud and Psychology. 

SAM: No. I didn't understand him. 

HALLY: That makes two of us. 

SAM: Think of mouldy apricot jam. 

HALLY: [After a delighted laugh.] Penicillin and Sir Alexander Fleming! And the title of the book, The 
Microbe Hunters. [ Delighted .] Splendid, Sam. Splendid! For once we are in total agreement. The major 
breakthrough in medical science in the Twentieth Century. If it wasn't for him, we might have lost the 
Second World War. It's deeply gratifying, Sam, to know that I haven't been wasting my time in talking to 
you. [ Strutting around proudly .] Tolstoy may have educated his peasants, but I've educated you. 

SAM: Standard Four to Standard Nine. 

HALLY : Have we been at it as long as that? 

SAM: Yep. And my first lesson was geography. 

HALLY: [Intrigued.] Really? I don't remember. 

SAM: My room there at the back of the old Jubilee Boarding House. I had just started working for your 
Mom. Little boy in short trousers walks in one afternoon and asks me seriously; "Sam, do you want to see 
South Africa?" Hey, man! Sure I wanted to see South Africa! 

HALLY: Was that me? 

SAM: ... So the next thing I'm looking at a map you had just done for homework. It was your first one and 
you were very proud of yourself. 

HALLY: Go on. 

SAM: Then came by first lesson. "Repeat after me, Sam: Gold in the Transvaal, mealies in the Free State, 
sugar in Natal and grapes in the Cape." I still know it! 

HALLY : Well, I'll be buggered. So that's how it all started. 

SAM: And your next map was one with all the rivers and the mountains they came from. The Orange, The 
Vaal, the Limpopo, the Zambezi . . . 

HALLY: You've got a phenomenal memory! 

SAM: You should be grateful. That is why you started passing your exams. You tried to be better than me. 

15 



They laugh together. Willie is attracted by the laughter and joins them. 

HALLY: The old Jubilee Boarding House. Sixteen rooms with board and lodging, rent in advance and one 
week's notice. I haven't thought about it for donkey's years . . . and I don't think that's an accident. [Boy], was 
I glad when we sold it and moved out. Those years are not remembered as the happiest ones of an unhappy 
childhood. 

WILLIE: [ Knocking on the table and trying to imitate a woman's voice ] "Hally, are you there?" 

HALLY : Who's that supposed to be/ 

WILLIE: "What you doing in there, Hally? Come out at once." 

HALLY : [To Sam] What's he talking about? 

SAM: Don't you remember? 

WILLIE: "Sam, Willie ... is he in there with you boys?" 

SAM: Hiding away in our room when your mother was looking for you. 

HALLY: [Another good laugh] Of course! I used to crawl and hide under your bed! But finish the story, 
Willie. Then what used to happen? You chaps would give the game away by telling her I was in there with 
you. So much for friendship. 

SAM: We couldn't lie to her. She knew. 

HALLY: Which meant I got another rowing for hanging around the "servants quarters." I think I spent more 
time in there with you chaps than anywhere else in that dump. And do you blame me? Nothing but bloody 
misery wherever you went. Somebody was always complaining about the food, or my mother was having a 
fight with Micky Nash because she'd caught her with a petty officer in her room. Maud Meiring was another 
one. Remember those two? They were prostitutes, you know. Soldiers and sailors from the troopships. 
Bottom fell out of the business when the war ended. God, the flotsam and jetsam that life washed up on our 
shores! No joking, if it wasn't for your room, I would have been the first certified {certifiably insane] ten- 
year-old in medical history. Ja, the memories are coming back now. Walking home from school and 
thinking; "What can I do this afternoon?" Try out a few ideas, but sooner or later I'd end up in there with you 
fellows. I bet you I could still find my way to your room with my eyes closed. [He does exactly that.] Down 
the corridor . . . telephone on the right, which my Mom keeps locked because somebody is using it on the sly 
and not paying . . . past the kitchen and unappetizing cooking smells . . . around the corner into the backyard, 
hold my breath again because there are more smells coming when I pass your lavatory, then into that little 
passageway, first door on the right and into your room. How's that? 

SAM: Good. But, as usual, you forgot to knock. 

HALLY : Like that time I barged in and [ . . . ] 

SAM: Ja, that taught you a lesson. 

[•••] 

HALLY: [ . . . ] [Back to his memories . . . using a few chairs he recreates the room as he lists the items.] A 
gray little room with a cold cement floor. Your bed against the wall [...]! Willie's bed . . . it's propped up 


16 



on bricks because one leg is broken . . . that wobbly little table with the washbasin and jug of water . . . yes! . 
. . stuck to the wall above it are some pin-up pictures from magazines. Joe Louis . . . 

WILLIE: Brown Bomber. World title. [Boxing pose] Three rounds and knockout! 


HALLY : Against who? 

WILLIE: Max Schmeling. 

HALLY : Correct. I can also remember Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and Rita Hayworth in a bathing 
costume which always made me hot and bothered when I looked at it. Under Willie's bed is an old suitcase 
with all his clothes in a mess, which is why I never hide there. Your things are neat and tidy in a trunk next to 
your bed, and on it there is a picture of you and Cynthia in your ballroom clothes, your first silver cup for 
third place in a competition and an old radio which doesn't work anymore. Have I left out anything? 

SAM: No. 

HALLY : Right, so much for the stage directions. Now the characters. [Sam and Willie move to their 
appropriate positions in the bedroom .] Willie is in bed, under his blankets with his clothes on, but we can't 
make out a word of what he's saying because he's got his head under the blankets as well. You're on your bed 
trimming your toenails with a knife - not a very edifying sight - and as for me . . . what am I doing? 

SAM: You're sitting on the floor giving Willie a lecture about being a good loser while you get the checker 
board and pieces ready for a game. Then you go to Willie's bed, pull off the blankets and make him play with 
you first because you know you're going to win, and that gives you the second game with me. 

HALLY : And you certainly were a bad loser, Willie ! 

WILLIE: Haai! 

HALLY: Wasn't he, Sam? And so slow! A game with you almost took the whole afternoon. Thank 
[goodness] I gave up trying to teach you how to play chess. 

WILLIE: You and Sam cheated. 

HALLY : I never saw Sam cheat, and mine were mostly the mistakes of youth. 

WILLIE: Then how is it you two was always winning? 

HALLY : Have you ever considered the possibility, Willie that it was because we were better than you? 
WILLIE: Every time better? 

HALLY : Not every time. There were occasions when we deliberately let you win a game so that you would 
stop sulking and go on playing with us. Sam used to wink at me when you weren't looking to show me it was 
time to let you win. 

WILLIE: So then you two didn't play fair. 

HALLY : It was for your benefit, Mr. Malopo, which is more than being fair. It was an act of self-sacrifice. 
[To Sam.] But you know what my best memory is, don't you? 


17 



SAM: No. 


HALLY : Come on, guess. If your memory is so good, you must remember it as well. 

SAM: We got up to a lot of tricks in there, Hally. 

HALLY : This one was special, Sam. 

SAM: I'm listening. 

HALLY: It started off looking like another of those useless nothing-to-do afternoons. I'd already been down 
to main Street looking for adventure, but nothing had happened. I didn't feel like climbing trees in the 
Donkin Park or pretending I was a private eye and following a stranger ... so as usual; See what's cooking in 
Sam's room. This time it was you on the floor. You had two thin pieces of wood and you were smoothing 
them down with a knife. It didn't looking particularly interesting, but when I asked you what you were doing, 
you just said, "Wait and see, Hally. Wait . . . and see" ... in that secret sort of way of yours. So I knew there 
was a surprise coming. You teased me, you bugger, by being deliberately slow and not answering my 
questions. 

[Sam laughs .] 

And whistling while you worked away! [Gosh], it was infuriating! I could have brained you! It was only 
when you tied them together in a cross and put that down on the brown paper that I realized what you were 
doing. "Sam is making a kite?" And when I asked you and you said "Yes" . . . ! [Shaking his head with 
disbelief.] The sheer audacity of it took my breath away. I mean, seriously, what the hell does a black man 
know about flying a kite? I'll be honest with you, Sam, I had no hopes for it. If you think I was excited and 
happy you got another guess coming. In fact, I was [ . . . ]-scared that we were going to make fools of 
ourselves. When we left the boarding house to go up onto the hill, I was praying quietly that there wouldn't 
be any other kids around to laugh at us. 

SAM: [Enjoying the memory as much as Hally.] Ja, I could see that. 

HALLY : I made it obvious, did I? 

SAM: Ja. You refused to carry it. 

HALLY : Do you blame me? Can you remember what the poor thing looked like? Tomato-box wood and 
brown paper! Flour and water for glue! Two of my mother's old stockings for a tail, and then all those bits 
and pieces of string you made me tie together so that we could fly it! Hell, no, that was now only asking for a 
miracle to happen. 

SAM: Then the big argument when I told you to hold the string and run with it when I let go. 

HALLY: I was prepared to run, all right, but straight back to the boarding house. 

SAM: [Knowing what's coming.] So what happened? 

HALLY : Come on, Sam, you remember as well as I do. 

SAM: I want to hear it from you 

Hally pauses. He wants to be as accurate as possible. 


18 



HALLY: You went a little distance from me down the hill, you held it up ready to let it go . . . "This is it," I 
though. "Like everything else in my life, here comes another fiasco." Then you shouted, "Go, Hally!" and I 
started to run. [ Another pause.] I don't know how to describe it, Sam. Ja! The miracle happened! I was 
running, waiting for it to crash to the ground, but instead suddenly there was something alive behind me at 
the end of the string, tugging at it as if it wanted to be free. I looked back . . . [ Shakes his head.] ... I still 
can't believe my eyes. It was flying! Looping around and trying to climb even higher into the sky. You 
shouted to me to let it have more string. I did, until there was none left and I was just holding that piece of 
wood we had tied it to. You came up and joined me. You were laughing. 

SAM: So were you. And shouting, "It works, Sam! We've done it!" 

HALLY : And we had! I was so proud of us! It was the most splendid thing I had ever seen. I wished there 
were hundreds of kids around to watch us. The part that scared me, though, was when you showed me how 
to make it dive down to the ground and then just when it was on the point of crashing, swoop up again! 

SAM: You didn't want to try yourself. 

HALLY: Of course not! I would have been suicidal if anything had happened to it. Watching you do it made 
me nervous enough. I was quite happy just to see it up there with its tail fluttering behind it. You left me after 
that, didn't you? You explained how to get it down, we tied it to the bench so that I could sit and watch it, 
and you went away. I wanted you to stay, you know. I was a little scared of having to look after it by myself. 

SAM: [Quietly.] I had work to do, Hally. 

HALLY : It was sort of sad brining it down, Sam. And it looked sad again when it was lying there on the 
ground. Like something that had lost its soul. Just tomato-box wood, brown paper and two of my mother's 
old stockings! But hell, I'll never forget that first moment when I saw it up there. I had a stiff neck the next 
day from looking up so much. 

Sam laughs. Hally turns to him with a question he never though of asking before. 

Why did you make that kite, Sam? 

SAM: [Evenly.] I can't remember. 

HALLY: Truly? 

SAM: Too long ago, Hally. 

HALLY : Ja, I suppose it was. It's time for another one, you know. 

SAM: Why do you say that? 

HALLY : Because it feels like that. Wouldn't be a good day to flit it, though. 

SAM: You can't fly kites on rainy days. 

HALLY: [He studies Sam. Their memories have made him conscious of the man's presence in his life.] How 
old are you, Sam? 

SAM: Two score and five. 


19 



HALLY : Strange, isn't it? 


SAM: What? 

HALLY : Me and you 
SAM: What's strange about it? 

HALLY: Little white boy in short trousers and a black man old enough to be his father flying a kite. It's not 
every day you see that. 

SAM: But why strange? Because the one is white and the other black? 

HALLY: I don't know. Would have been just as strange, I suppose, if it had been me and my Dad . . . cripple 
man and a little boy! Nope! There's no chance of me flying a kite without it being strange. [Simple statement 
of fact - no self-pity .] There's a nice little short story there. "The Kite-Flyers." But we'd have to find a twist in 
the ending. 

SAM: Twist? 

HALLY: Yes. Something unexpected. The way it ended with us was two straightforward . . . me on the 
bench and you going back to work. There's no drama in that. 

WILLIE: And me? 

HALLY: You? 

WILLIE: Yes, me. 

HALLY: You want to get into the story as well, do you/ 1 got it! Change the title: "Afternoons in Sam's 
room" . . . expand it and tell all the stories. It's on its way to being a novel. Our days in the old Jubilee. Sad in 
a way that they're over. I almost wish we were still in that little room. 

SAM: We're still together. 

HALLY: That's true. It's just that life felt the right size in there . . . not too big and not too small. Wasn't so 
hard to work up a bit of courage. It's got so bloody complicated since then. 

[The telephone rings. Sam answers it.] 

SAM: St. George's Park Tea Room . . . Hello, Madam . . . Yes, Madam, he's here . . . Hally, it's your mother. 
HALLY : Where is she phoning from? 

SAM: Sounds like the hospital. It's a public telephone. 

HALLY: [Relieved. ] You see! I told you. [The telephone.] Hello, Mom . . . Yes . . . yes no fine. Everything's 
under control here. How's things with poor old Dad? . . . Has he had a bad turn? . . . What? . . . Oh, [Gosh] ! . 

. . Yes, Sam told me, but I was sure he'd made a mistake. But what's all this about. Mom? He didn't look at 
all good last night. How can he get better so quickly? .... Then very obviously you must say no. Be firm 
with him. You're the boss . . . You know what it's going to be like if he comes home . . . Well, then, don't 
blame me when I fail my exams at the end of the year ... Yes! How am I expected to be fresh for school 


20 



when I spend half the night massaging his gammy leg? So am I! ... So tell him a white lie. Say Dr. Colley 
wants more X-rays of his stump. Or bribe him. We'll sneak in double tots of brandy in future . . . What? . . . 
Order him to get back into bed at once! If he's going to behave like a child, treat him like one . . . All right, 
Mom! I was just trying to . . . I'm sorry ... I said I'm sorry . . . Quick, give me your number. I'll phone you 
back. [He hangs up and waits a few seconds .] Here we go again! [He dials.] I'm sorry, Mom . . . Okay . . . 
but now listen to me carefully. All it needs is for you to put your foot down. Don't take no for an answer . . . 
Did you hear me? And whatever you do, don't discuss it with him . . . Because I'm frightened you'll give in to 
him ... Yes, Sam gave me lunch ... I ate all of it! .. . No, Mom, not a soul. It's still raining here . . . Right, 
I'll tell them. I'll just do some homework and then lock up . . . but remember now, Mom. Don't listen to 
anything he says. And phone me back and let me know what happens. . . . Okay. Bye, Mom. [He hangs up. 
The men are staring at him.] My Mom says that when you're finished with the floors you must do the 
windows. [Pause.] Don't misunderstand me, chaps. All I want is for him to get better. And if he was, I'd be 
the first person to say; "Bring him home." But he's not, and we can't give him the medical care and attention 
he needs at home. That's what hospitals are there for. [Brusquely.] So don't just stand there! Get on with it! 
[Sam clears Hally's table.] 

You heard right. My Dad wants to go home. 

SAM: Is he better? 

HALLY: [Sharply.] No! How the hell can he be better when last night he was groaning with pain? This is not 
an age of miracles ! 

SAM: Then he should stay in hospital. 

HALLY: [Seething with irritation and frustration.] Tell me something I don't know, Sam. What the hell do 
you think I was saying to my Mom? [...]. 

SAM: I'm sure he'll listen to your Mom. 

HALLY: You don't know what she's up against. He's already packed his shaving kit and pajamas and is 
sitting on his bed with his crutches, dressed and ready to go. I know him when he gets in that mood. If she 
tries to reason with him, we've had it. She's no match for him when it comes to a battle of words. He'll tie her 
up in knots. [Trying to hide his true feelings.] 

SAM: I suppose it gets lonely for him in there. 

HALLY: With all the patients and nurses around? Regular visits from the Salvation Army? Balls! It's ten 
times worse for him at home. I'm at school and my mother is here in the business all day. 

SAM: He's at least got you at night. 

HALLY: [Before he can stop himself] And we've got him! Please! I don't want to talk about it anymore. 
[Unpacks his school case, slamming down books on the table.] Life is just a plain bloody mess, that's all. 

And people are fools. 

SAM: Come on, Hally. 

HALLY: Yes, they are! They bloody well deserve what they get. 

SAM: Then don't complain. 


21 



HALLY: Don't try to be clever, Sam. It doesn't suit you. Anybody who things there's nothing wrong 
with this world needs to have his head examined. Just when things are going along all right, without fail 
someone or something will come along and spoil everything. Somebody should write that down as a 
fundamental law of the Universe. The principle of perpetual disappointment. If there is a God who 
created this world, he should scrap it and try again. 

SAM: All right, Hally, all right. What you got for homework? 

HALLY: Nonsense, as usual. [Opens an exercise book and reads.] "Write five hundred words describing an 
annual event of cultural or historical significance." 

SAM: That should be easy enough for you. 

HALLY: And also plain bloody boring. You know what he wants, don't you? One of their useless old 
ceremonies. The commemoration of the 1820 Settlers [a resettlement scheme, in which British settlers were 
given land and paid to resettle in Cape Province] or, if it's going to be culture, Carols by Candlelight every 
Christmas. 

SAM: It's an impressive sight. Make a good description, Hally. All those candles glowing in the dark and the 
people singing hymns. 

HALLY: And it's called religious hysteria. [ Intense irritation.] Please, Sam! Just leave me alone and let me 
get on with it. I'm not in the mood for games this afternoon. And remember my Mom's orders . . . you're to 
help Willie with the windows. Come on, now, I don't want any more nonsense in here. 

SAM: Okay, Hally, okay. 

Hally settles down to his homework , determined preparation . . . pen, ruler, exercise book, dictionary, 
another cake . . . all of which will lead to nothing. 

[Sam waltzes over to Willie and starts to replace tables and chairs. He practices a ballroom stop while doing 
so. Willie watches. When Sam is finished, Willie tries.] Good! But just a little bit quicker on the turn and only 
move in to her after she's crossed over. What about this one? 

Another step. When Sam is finished, Willie again has a go. 

Much better. See what happens when you just relax and enjoy yourself? Remember that in two weeks' time 
and you'll be all right. 

WILLIE: But I haven't got partner, Boet Sam. 

SAM: Maybe Hilda will turn up tonight. 

WILLIE: No, Boet Sam. [ Reluctantly .] I gave her a good hiding. 

SAM: You mean a bad one. 

WILLIE: Good bad one. 

SAM: Then you mustn't complain either. Now you pay the price for losing your temper. 


WILLIE: I also pay two pounds ten shilling entrance fee. 

22 



SAM: They'll refund you if you withdraw now. 

WILLIE: [Appalled.] You mean, don't dance? 

SAM: Yes. 

WILLIE: No! I wait too long and I practice too hard. If I find me new partner, you think I can be ready in 
two weeks? I ask Madam for my leave now and we practice every day. 

SAM: Quickstep nonstop for two weeks. World record, Willie, but you'll be mad at the end. 

WILLIE: No jokes, Boet Sam. 

SAM: I'm not joking. 

WILLIE: So then what? 

SAM: Find Hilda. Say you're sorry and promise you won't beat her again. 

WILLIE: No. 

SAM: Then withdraw. Try again next year. 

WILLIE: No. 

SAM: Then I give up. 

WILLIE: Haaikona [meaning No!], Boet Sam, you can't. 

WILLIE: What do you mean, I can't? I'm telling you I give up. 

WILLIE: [Adamant], No! [Accusingly.] It was you who start ballroom dancing. 

SAM: So? 

WILLIE: Before that I use to be happy. And is you and Miriam who bring me to Hilda and say here's partner 
for you. 

SAM: What are you saying, Willie? 

WILLIE: You! 

SAM: But me what? To blame? 

WILLIE: Yes. 

SAM: Willie . . . ? [Bursts into laughter.] 

WILLIE: And now all you do is make jokes at me. You wait. When Miriam leaves you is my turn to laugh. 
Ha! Ha! Ha! 


23 



SAM: [He can't take Willie seriously any longer .] She can leave me tonight! I know what to do. [Bowing 
before an imaginary partner.] May I have the pleasure? [He dances and sings.] 

"Just a fellow with his pillow . . . Dancin' like a willow ... In an autumn breeze . . ." 

WILLIE: There you go again! 

[ Sam goes on dancing and singing.] 

Boet Sam! 

SAM: There's the answer to your problem! Judges' announcement in two weeks' time. "Ladies and 
gentlemen, the winner in the open section . . . Mr. Willie Malopo and his pillow ! " 

This is too much for a now really angry Willie. He goes for Sam, but the latter is too quick for him and puts 
Hally's table between the two of them. 

HALLY: [Exploding.] For [goodness] sake, you two! 

WILLIE: [Still trying to get at Sam.] I donner you, Sam! Struesgod! 

SAM: [Still laughing.] Sorry, Willie . . . sorry . . . 

HALLY: Sam! Willie! [Grabs his ruler and gives Willie a vicious whack on the burn. How the hell am I 
supposed to concentrate with the two of you behaving like bloody children! 

WILLIE: Hit him too! 

HALLY: Shut up, Willie. 

WILLIE: He started jokes again. 

HALLY: Get back to your work. You too, Sam. [His ruler.] Do you want another one, Willie? 

Sam and Willie return to their work. Hally uses the opportunity to escape from his unsuccessful attempt at 
homework. He struts around like a little despot, ruler in hand, giving vent to his anger and frustration. 
Suppose a customer had walked in then? Or the Park Superintendent. And seen the two of you behaving like 
a pair of hooligans. That would have been the end of my mother's license, you know. And your jobs! Well, 
this is the end of it. From now on there will be no more of your ballroom nonsense in here. This is a business 
establishment, not a bloody new Brighton dancing school. I've been far too lenient with the two of you. 
[Behind the counter for a green cool drink and a dollop of ice cream. He keeps up his tirade as he prepares 
it.] But what really makes me bitter is that I allow you chaps a little freedom in here when business is bad 
and what do you do with it? The foxtrot! Especially you, Sam. There's more to life that trotting around a 
dance floor and I thought at least you knew it. 

SAM: It's a harmless pleasure, Hally. It doesn't hurt anybody. 

HALLY : It's also a rather simple one, you know. 

SAM: You reckon so? Have you ever tried? 

HALLY : Of course not. 


SAM: Why don't you? Now. 


24 



HALLY : What do you mean? Me dance? 

SAM: Yes. I'll show you a simple step - the waltz - then you try it. 

HALLY : What will that prove? 

SAM: That it might not be as easy as you think. 

HALLY : I didn't say it was easy. I said it was simple - like in simple-minded, meaning mentally retarded. 
You can't exactly say it challenges the intellect. 

SAM: It does other things. 

HALLY: Such as? 

SAM: Make people happy. 

HALLY : [The glass in his hand.] So do American cream soda and ice cream. For [goodness] sake, Sam, 
you're not asking me to take ballroom dancing serious, are you? 

SAM: Yes. 

HALLY: [Sigh of defeat.] Oh, well, so much for trying to give you a decent education. I've obviously 
achieved nothing. 

SAM: You still haven't told me what's wrong with admiring something that's beautiful and then trying to do 
it yourself. 

HALLY: Nothing. But we happen to be talking about a foxtrot, not a thing of beauty. 

SAM: But that's just what I'm saying. If you were to see two champions doing, two masters of the art . . . 
HALLY: Oh, gosh, I give up. So now it's also art! 

SAM: Ja. 

HALLY : There's a limit, Sam. Don't confuse art and entertainment. 

SAM: So then what is art? 

HALLY: You want a definition? 

SAM: Ja. 

HALLY: [He realizes he has got to be careful. He gives the matter a lot of thought before answering .] 
Philosophers have been trying to do that for centuries. What is Art? What is Life? But basically I suppose it's 
... the giving of meaning to matter. 

SAM: Nothing to do with beautiful? 

HALLY : It goes beyond that. It's the giving of form to the formless. 


25 



SAM: Ja, well, maybe it's not art, then. But I still say it's beautiful. 
HALLY : I'm sure the word you mean to use is entertaining. 


SAM: [Adamant.] No. Beautiful. And if you want proof, come along to the Centenary hall in New Brighton 
in two weeks' time. 

The mention of the Centenary Hall draws Willie over to them. 

HALLY : What for? I've seen the two of you prancing around in here often enough. 

SAM: [He laughs.] This isn't the real thing, Hally. We're just playing around in here. 

HALLY : So? I can use my imagination. 

SAM: And what do you get? 

HALLY: A lot of people dancing around and having a so-called good time. 

SAM: That all? 

HALLY : Well, basically it is that, surely. 

SAM: No, it isn't your imagination hasn't helped you at all. There's a lot more to it than that. We're getting 
ready for the championships, Hally, not just another dance. There's going to be a lot of people, all right, and 
they're going to have a good time, but they'll only be spectators, sitting around and watching. It's just the 
competitors our there on the dance floor. Party decorations and fancy lights all around the hall ! The ladies in 
beautiful evening dresses! 

HALLY : My mother's got one of those, Sam, and quite frankly, it's an embarrassment every time she wears 
it. 

SAM: [Undeterred.] Your imagination left out the excitement. 

Hally scoffs. 

Oh yes. The finalists are not going to be out there just to have a good time. One of those couples will be the 
1950 Eastern Province Champions. And your imagination left out the music. 

WILLIE: Mr. Elijah Gladman Guzana and his Orchestral Jazzonians. 

SAM: The sound of the big band, Hally. Trombone, trumpet, tenor and alto sax. And then, finally, your 
imagination also left out the climax of the evening when the dancing is finished, the judges have stopped 
whispering among themselves and the Master of Ceremonies collects their scorecards and goes up onto the 
stage to announce the winners. 

HALLY : All right. So you make it sound like a bit of a do. It's an occasion. Satisfied 
SAM: [Victory. ] So you admit that! 

HALLY : Emotionally yes, intellectually no. 


26 



SAM: Well, I don't know what you mean by that, all I'm telling you is that it is going to be the event of the 
year in New Brighton. It's been sold out for two weeks already. There's only standing room left. We've got 
competitors coming from Kingwilliamstown, East London, Port Alfred. 

Hally starts pacing thoughtfully. 

HALLY : Tell be a bit more. 

SAM: I thought you weren't interested . . . intellectually. 

HALLY: [Mysteriously. ] I've got my reasons. 

SAM: What do you want to know? 

HALLY : It takes place every year? 

SAM: Yes. But only ever third year in New Brighton. It's East London's turn to have the championships next 
year. 

HALLY : Which, I suppose, makes it an even more significant event. 

SAM: Ah ha! We're getting somewhere. Our "occasion" is now a "significant event." 

HALLY : I wonder. 

SAM: What? 

HALLY : I wonder if I would get away with it. 

SAM: But what? 

HALLY: [To the table and his exercise book.] "Write five hundred words describing an annual event of 
cultural or historical significance." Would I be stretching poetic license a little too far if I called your 
ballroom championships a cultural event? 

SAM: You mean . . .? 

HALLY: You thing we could get five hundred words out of it, Sam? 

SAM: Victor Sylvester has written a whole book on ballroom dancing. 

WILLIE: You going to write about it, Master Hally? 

HALLY: Yes, gentlemen, that is precisely what I am considering doing. Old Doc Bromely - he's my English 
teacher - is going to argue with me, of course. He doesn't like natives. But I'll point out to him that in strict 
anthropological terms the culture of a primitive black society includes its dancing and singing. To put my 
thesis in a nutshell: The war-dance has been replaced by the waltz. But it still amounts to the same thing: the 
releases of primitive emotions through movement. Shall we give it a go? 

SAM: I'm ready. 


27 



WILLIE: Me also. 


HALLY: Ha! This will teach the old bugger a lesson. [Decision taken.] right. Let's get ourselves organized. 

[ This means another cake on the table. He sits. ] I think you've given me enough general atmosphere, Sam, 
but to build the tension and suspense I need facts. [Pencil pointed.] 

WILLIE: Give him facts, Boet Sam. 

HALLY : What you called the climax . . . how many finalists? 

SAM: Six couples. 

HALLY: [Making notes.] Go on. Give me the picture. 

SAM: Spectators seated around the hall. [Willie becomes a spectator.] 

HALLY : And . . . it's a full house. 

SAM: At one end, on the stage, Gladman and his Orchestral Jazzonians. At the other end is a long table with 
the three judges. The six finalists go onto the dance floor and take up their positions. When they are ready 
and the spectators have settled down, the Master of Ceremonies goes to the microphone. To start with, he 
makes some jokes to get the people laughing . . . 

HALLY: Good touch! [As he writes. "... creating a relaxed atmosphere which will change to one of tension 
and drama as the climax is approached." 

SAM: [Onto a chair to act out the M.C.] "Ladies and gentlemen, we come now to the great moment you 
have all been waiting for this evening . . . The finals of the 1950 Eastern Province Open Ballroom Dancing 
Championships. But first let be introduce the finalists! Mr. And Mrs. Welcome Tchabalala from 
Kingwilliamstown ..." 

WILLIE: [He applauds after every name.] Is when the people clap their hands and whistle and make a lot of 
noise, Master Hally. 

SAM:: "Mr. Mulligan Njikelane and Miss Nomhle Nkonyeni of Grahamstown; Mr. and Mrs. Norman 
Nchinga from Port Alfred; Mr. Fats Bokolane and Miss Dina Plaatjies from East London; Mr. Sipho Dugu 
and Mrs. Mable Magada from Peddie; and from New Brighton our very own Mr. Willie Malopo and Miss 
Hilda Samuels." 

Willie can't believe his ears. He abandons his role as a spectator and scrambles into position as a finalist. 
WILLIE: Relaxed and ready to romance! 

SAM: The applause dies down. When everybody is silent, Gladman lifts up his sax, nods at the Orchestral 
Jazzonians . . . 

WILLIE: Play the jukebox please, Boet Sam! 

SAM: I also only got bus fare, Willie. 

HALLY: Hold it, everybody. [Heads for the cash register behind the counter.] How much is in the till, Sam? 


28 



SAM: Three shillings, Hally . . . your Mom counted it before she left. 

Hally hesitates. 

HALLY : Sorry, Willie. You know how she carried on the last time I did it. We'll just have to pool our 
combined imaginations and hope for the best. [ Returns to the table.] Back to work. How are the points 
scored, Sam? 

SAM: Maximum of ten points each for individual style, deportment, rhythm and general appearance. 
WILLIE: Must I start? 

HALLY: Hold it for a second, Willie. And penalties? 

SAM: For what? 

HALLY : For doing something wrong. Say you stumble or bump into somebody ... do they take off any 
points? 

SAM: [Aghast.] Hally . . . ! 

HALLY: When you're dancing. If you and your partner collide into another couple. 

Hally can get no further. Sam has collapsed with laughter. He explains to Willie. 

SAM: If me and Miriam bump into you and Hilda . . . 

Willie joins him in another good laugh. 

Hally, Hally .. .! 

HALLY: [Perplexed.] Why? What did I say? 

SAM: There's no collisions out there, Hally. Nobody trips or stumbles or bumps into anybody else. That's 
what that moment is all about. To be one of those finalists on that dance floor is like . . . like being in a 
dream about a world in which accidents don't happen. 

HALLY: [Genuinely moved by Sam's image.] [Wow], Sam! That's beautiful! 

WILLIE: [Can endure waiting no longer.] I'm starting! [Willie dances while Sam talks.] 

SAM: Of course it is. That's what I've been trying to say to you all afternoon. And it's beautiful because 
that is what we want life to be like. But instead, like you said, Hally, we're bumping into each other all 
the time. Look at the three of us this afternoon: I've bumped into Willie, the two of us have bumped into 
you, you've bumped into your mother, she bumping into your Dad . . . None of us knows the steps and 
there's no music playing. And it doesn't stop with us. The whole world is doing it all the time. Open a 
newspaper and what do you read? America has bumped into Russia. England is bumping into India, rich 
man bumps into poor man. Those are big collisions, Hally. They make for a lot of bruises. People get 
hurt in all that bumping, and we're sick and tired of it now. It's been going on for too long. Are we never 
going to get it right? . . . learn to dance life like champions instead of always being just a bunch of 
beginners at it? 

HALLY: [Deep and sincere admiration of the man.] You've got a vision, Sam! 


29 



SAM: Not just me. What I'm saying to you is that everybody's got it. That's why there's only standing room 
left for the Centenary Hall in two weeks' time. For as long as the music lasts, we are going to see six couples 
get it right, the way we want life to be. 

HALLY : But is that the best we can do, Sam . . . watch six finalists dreaming about the way it should be? 

SAM: I don't know. But it starts with that. Without the dream we won't know what we're going for. Any 
anyway I reckon there are a few people who have got past just dreaming about it and are trying for 
something real. Remember that thing we read once in the paper about the Mahatma Gandhi? Going without 
food to stop those riots in India? 

HALLY: You're right. He certainly was trying to teach people to get the steps right. 

SAM: And the Pope. 

HALLY: Yes, he's another one. Our old General Smuts [Afrikaner hero] as well, you know. He's also out 
there dancing. You know, Sam, when you come to think of it, that's what the United Nations [brand new at 
the time] boils down to ... a dancing school for politicians ! 

SAM: And let's hope they learn. 

HALLY: [A little surge of hope.] You're right. We mustn't despair. Maybe there's some hope for mankind 
after all. Keep it up, Willie. [Back to his table with determination.] This is a lot bigger than I thought. So 
what have we got? Yes, our title: "A World Without Collisions." 

SAM: That sounds good! "A World Without Collisions." 

HALLY: Subtitle: "Global Politics on the Dance Floor." No. A bit too heavy, hey? What about 'ballroom 
Dancing as a Political Vision"? 

The telephone rings. Sam answers it. 

SAM: St. George's Park Tea room . . . Yes, Madam . . . Hally, it's your Mom. 

HALLY: [ Back to reality.] Oh, [gosh], yes! I'd forgotten all about it. [Crap]! Remember my words, Sam? 
Just when you're enjoying yourself, someone or something will come along and wreck everything. 

SAM: You haven't heard what she's got to say yet. 

HALLY : Public telephone? 

SAM: No. 

HALLY : Does she sound happy or unhappy? 

SAM: I couldn't tell. [Pause.] She's waiting, Hally. 

HALLY: [To the telephone.] Hello, Mom . . . No, everything is okay here. Just doing my homework . . . 
What's your news? . . . You've what? . . . [Pause. He takes the receiver away from his ear for a few seconds. 
In the course of Hally's telephone conversation, Sam and Willie discreetly position the stacked tables and 
chairs. Hally places the receiver back to his ear.] Yes, I'm still here. Oh, well, I give up now. Why did you 
do it, Mom? . . . Well, I just hope you know what you've let us in for . . . [Loudly] I said I hope you know 
what you've let us in for! It's the end of the peace and quiet we've been having. [Softly.] Where is he? 


30 



[ Normal voice.] He can't hear us from there. But for [goodness] sake, Mom, what happened? I told you to be 
firm with him . . . then you and the nurses should have held him down, taken his crutches away ... I know 
only too well he's my father! . . . I'm not being disrespectful, but I'm sick and tired of emptying stinking 
chamberpots full of phlegm and [urine] . . . Yes, I do! When you're not there, he asks me to do it . . . If you 
really want to know the tmth, that's why I've got no appetite for my food . . .Yes! There's a lot of things you 
don't know about. For your information, I still haven't got that science textbook I need. And you know why? 
He borrowed the money you gave me for it. . . . Because I didn't want to start another fight between you two 
. . . He says that every time ... all right. Mom! [Viciously.] Then just remember to start hiding your bag 
away again, because he'll be at your purse before long for money for booze. And when he's well enough to 
come down here, you better keep an eye on the till as well, because that is also going to develop a leak . . . 
then don't complain to me when he starts his old tricks ... Yes, you do. I get it from you on one side and 
from him on the other, and it makes life hell for me. I'm not going to be the peacemaker anymore. I'm 
warning you now; when the two of you start fighting again. I'm leaving home . . . Mom, if you start crying, 
I'm going to put down the receiver . . . Okay . . . [ Lowering his voice to a vicious whisper.] Okay, Mom. I 
heard you. [Desperate.] No . . . Because I don't want to. I'll see him when I get home! Mom! . . . [Pause. 
When he speaks again, his tone changes completely. It is not simply pretense. We sense a genuine emotional 
conflict.] Welcome home, chum! . . . What's that? . . . Don't be silly, Dad. You being home is just about the 
best news in the world ... I bet you are. Bloody depressing there with everybody going on about their 
ailments, hey! . . . How you feeling? . . . Good . . . Here as well, pal. Coming down cats and dogs . . . That's 
right. Just the day for a kip and a toss in your old Uncle Ned [slang for bed] . . . Everything's just hunky- 
dory { fine } on my side. Dad . . . Well, to start with, there's a nice pile of comics for you on the counter . . . 
Yes, old Kemple brought them in. Batman and robin, Submariner . . just your cup of tea ... I will . . . Yes, 
we'll spin a few yarns tonight . . . Okay, chum, see you in a little while . . . No, I promise, I'll come straight 
home . . . [Pause - his mother comes back on the phone. ] Mom? Okay. I'll lock up now . . . What? Oh, the 
brandy . . . Yes, I'll remember! I'll put it in my suitcase now, for [goodness] sake. I know well enough what 
will happen if he doesn't get it . . . [Places a bottle of brandy on the counter.] I was kind to him. Mom. I 
didn't say anything nasty! All right. Bye. [End of telephone conversation. A desolate Hcdly doesn't move. A 
strained silence.] 

SAM: [Quietly.] That sounded like a bad bump, Hally. 

HALLY: [Having a hard time controlling his emotions. He speaks carefully.] Mind your own business, Sam. 

SAM: Sorry. I wasn't trying to interfere. Shall we carry on? Hally? [He indicates the exercise book. No 
response from Hcdly.] 

WILLIE: [Also trying.] Tell him about when they give out the cups, Boet Sam. 

SAM: Ja! That's another big moment. The presentation of the cups after the winners have been announced. 
You've got to put that in. [Still no response from Hcdly.] 

WILLIE: A big silver one, Master Hally, called floating trophy for the champions. 

SAM: We always invite some big-shot personality to hand them over. Guest of honor this year is going to be 
his Holiness Bishop Jabulani of the all African Lree Zionist church. [Hally gets up abruptly, goes to the 
table and tears up the page he was writing on. ] 

HALLY : So much for a bloody world without collision. 

SAM: Too bad. It was on its way to being a good composition. 

HALLY : Let's stop [deceiving] ourselves, Sam. 


31 



SAM: Have we been doing that? 

HALLY: Yes! That's what all our talk about a decent world has been . . . just so much [nonsense]. 

SAM: We did say it was only a dream. 

HALLY: And a bloody useless one at that. Life's [awful] and it's never going to change. 

SAM: Ja, maybe that's true. 

HALLY : There's no maybe about it. It's a blunt and brutal fact. All we've done this afternoon is waste our 
time. 

SAM: Not if we'd got your homework done. 

HALLY: I don't give a [crap] about my homework, so, for Christ's sake, just shut up about it. [ Slamming 
books viciously into his school case.] Hurry up now and finish your work. I want to lock up and get out of 
here. [Pause. And then go where? Home-sweet [ . . . ] home. [Geez], I hate that word. [ Hally goes to the 
counter to put the brandy bottle and comics in his school case. After a moment's hesitation, he smashes the 
bottle of brandy. He abandons all further attempts to hide his feelings. Sam and Willie work away as 
unobtrusively as possible.] Do you want to know what is really wrong with your lovely little dream, Sam/ 
It's not just that we are all bad dancers. That does happen to be perfectly true, but there's more to it than just 
that. You left out the cripples. 

SAM: Hally! 

HALLY: [Now totally reckless.] Ja! Can't leave them out, Sam. That's why we always end up on our 
backsides on the dance floor. They're also out there dancing . . . like a bunch of broken spiders trying to do 
the quickstep! [An ugly attempt at laughter.] When you come to think of it, it's a bloody comical sight. I 
mean, it's bad enough on two legs . . . but one and a pair of crutches! Hell, no, Sam. That's guaranteed to turn 
that dance floor into a shambles. Why you shaking your head? Picture it, man. For once this afternoon let's 
use our imagination sensibly. 

SAM: Be careful, Hally. 

HALLY : Of what? The truth? I seem to be the only one around here who is prepared to face it. We've had 
the pretty dream; it's time now to wake up and have a good long look at the way things really are. Nobody 
knows the steps, there's no music, the cripples are also out there tripping up everybody and trying to get into 
the act, and it's all called the All-Comers-How-to-Make-a-[Mess]-of-Life-Championships. [Another ugly 
laugh.] Hang on, Sam! The best bit is still coming. Do you know what the winner's trophy is? A beautiful big 
chamber-pot with roses on the side, and it's full to the brim with [urine] . And guess who I think is going to be 
this year's winner? 

SAM: [Almost shouting.] Stop now! 

HALLY: [Suddenly appalled by how far he has gone.] Why? 

SAM: Hally! It's your father you're talking about. 

HALLY: So? 


32 



SAM: Do you know what you've been saying? [ Hally can't answer. He is rigid with shame. Sam speaks to 
him sternly .] No, Hally, you mustn't do it. Take back those words and ask for forgiveness! It's a terrible sin 
for a son to mock his father with jokes like that. You'll be punished if you carry on. Your father is your 
father, even if he is a . . . cripple man. 

WILLIE: Yes, Master Hally. Is true what Sam say. 

SAM: I understand how you are feeling, Hally, but even so . . . 

HALLY: No, you don't! 

SAM: I think I do. 

HALLY : And I'm telling you you don't. Nobody does. [ Speaking carefully as his shame turns to rage at 
Sam.] It's your turn to be careful, Sam. Very careful! You're treading on dangerous ground. Leave me and 
my father alone. 

SAM: I'm not the one who's been saying things about him. 

HALLY : What goes on between me and my Dad is none of your business. 

SAM: Then don't tell me about it. If that's all you've got to say about him, I don't want to hear. [For a 
moment Hally is at a loss for a response .] 

HALLY : Just get on with your bloody work and shut up. 

SAM: Swearing at me won't help you. 

HALLY: Yes, it does! Mind your own [ . . . ] business and shut up! 

SAM: Okay. If that's the way you want it, I'll stop trying. [He turns away. This infuriates Hally even more.] 

HALLY : Good. Because what you've been trying to do is meddle in something you know nothing about. All 
that concerns you here, Sam, is to try and do what you get paid for - keep the place clean and serve the 
customers. In plain words, just get on with your job. My mother is right. She's always warning me about 
allowing you to get too familiar. Well, this time you've gone too far. It's going to stop right now. [No 
response from Sam.] You're only a servant in here, and don't forget it. [Still no response. Hally is trying 
hard to get one.] And as far as my father is concerned, all you need to remember is that he is your boss. 

SAM: [Needles at last.] No, he isn't. I get paid by your mother. 

HALLY: Don't argue with me, Sam! 

SAM: Then don't say he's my boss. 

HALLY: He's a white man and that's good enough for you. 

SAM: I'll try to forget you said that. 

HALLY : Don't! Because you won't be doing me a favor if you do. I'm telling you to remember it. [A pause. 
Sam pulls himself together and makes one last effort.] 


33 



SAM: Hally, Hally . . . ! Come on now. Let's stop before it's too late. You're right. We are on dangerous 
ground! If we're not careful, somebody is going to get hurt. 

HALLY: It won't be me. 

SAM: Don't be so sure. 

HALLY : I don't know what you're talking about, Sam. 

SAM: Yes, you do. 

HALLY: [Furious.] [ . . . ] I with you would stop trying to tell me what I do and what I don't know. [ Sam 
gives up. He turns to Willie.] 

SAM: Let's finish up. 

HALLY : Don't turn your back on me ! I haven't finished talking. [He grabs Sam by the arm and tries to 
make him turn around. Sam reacts with a flash of anger.] 

SAM: Don't do that, Hally! [Facing the boy.] all right, I'm listening. Well? What do you want to say to me? 

HALLY: [Pause as Hally looks for something to say. | To begin with, why don't you start calling me Master 
Harold, like Willie. 

SAM: Do you mean that? 

HALLY : Why the hell do you think I said it? 

SAM: And if I don't. . . 

HALLY: You might just lose your job. 

SAM: [Quietly and very carefully.] If you make me say it once, I'll never call you anything else again. 
HALLY: So? [The boy confronts the man.] Is that meant to be a threat? 

SAM: Just telling you what will happen if you make me do that. You must decide what it means to you. 

HALLY: Well, I have. It's good news. Because that is exactly what master Harold wants from now on. Think 
of it as a little lesson in respect, Sam, that's long overdue, and I hope you remember it as well as you do your 
geography. I can tell you now that somebody who will be glad to hear I've finally given it to you will be my 
Dad. Yes! He agrees with my Mom. He's always going on about it as well. "You must teach the boys to show 
you more respect, my son." 

SAM: So now you can stop complaining about going home. Everybody is going to be happy tonight. 

HALLY: That's perfectly correct. You see, you mustn't get the wrong idea about me and my Dad, Sam. We 
also have our good times together. Some bloody good laughs. He's got a marvelous sense of humor. Want to 
know what our favorite joke is? He gives out a big groan, you see, and says: "It's not fair, is it, Hally?" Then 
I have to ask; "What, chum?" And then he says: "A nigger's arse" . . . and we both have a good laugh. [The 
men stare at him in disbelief] What's the matter, Willie? Don't you catch the joke? You always were a bit 


34 



slow on the uptake. It's what's called a pun. You see, fair means both light in color and to be just and decent. 
[He turns to Sam.] I thought you would catch it, Sam. 

SAM: Oh, ja, I catch it all right. 

HALLY : But it doesn't appeal to your sense of humor. 

SAM: Do you really laugh? 

HALLY: Of course. 

SAM: To please him? Make him feel good? 

HALLY: No, for [Pete’s] sake! I laugh because I think it's a bloody good joke. 

SAM: You're really trying hard to be ugly, aren't you? And why drag poor old Willie into it? He's done 
nothing to you except show you the respect you want so badly. That's also not being fair, you know . . . and I 
mean just or decent. 

WILLIE: It's all right, Sam. Leave it now. 

SAM: It's me you're after. You should just have said "Sam's arse" . . . because that's the one you're trying to 
kick. Anyway, how do you know it's not fair? You've never seen it. Do you want to? [He drops his trousers 
and underpants and presents his backside for Hally's inspection.] Have a good look. A real Basuto {South 
African people living in what's now Lesotho, then 'Basutoland'} arse . . . which is about as nigger as they can 
come. Satisfied? [Trousers up.] Now you can make your Dad even happier when you go home tonight. Tell 
him I showed you my arse and he is quite right. It's not fair. And if it will give him an even better laugh next 
time, I'll also let him have a look. Come, Willie, let's finish up and go. [Sam and Willie start to tidy up the 
tea room. Hally doesn't move. He waits for a moment when Sam passes him.] 

HALLY: [Quietly.] Sam . . . [Sam stops and looks expectantly at the boy. Hally spits in his face. A long and 
heartfelt grown from Willie. For a few seconds Sam doesn't move.] 

SAM: [Taking out a handkerchief and wiping his face.] It's all right, Willie. To Hally. Ja, well, you've done it 
. . . Master Harold. Yes, I'll start calling you that from now on. It won't be difficult anymore. You're hurt 
yourself. Master Harold. I saw it coming. I warned you, but you wouldn't listen. You've just hurt yourself 
bad. And you're a coward, master Harold. The face you should be spitting in is your father's . . . but you used 
mine, because you think you're safe inside your fair skin . . . and this time I don't mean just or decent. 

[Pause, then moving violently towards Hally.] Should I hit him, Willie? 

WILLIE: [Stopping Sam.] No, Boet Sam. 

SAM: [Violently.] Why not? 

WILLIE: It won't help, Boet Sam. 

SAM: I don't want to help! I want to hurt him. 

WILLIE: You also hurt yourself. 

SAM: And if he had done it to you, Willie? 


35 



WILLIE: Me? Spit at me like I was a dog? [A thought that had not occurred to him before. He looks at 
Hally. | Ja. Then I want to hit him. I want to hit him hard! [A dangerous few seconds as the men stand staring 
at the boy. Willie turns away, shaking his head.] But maybe all I do is go cry at the back. He's a little boy, 
Boet Sam. Little white boy. Long trousers now, but he's still little boy. 

SAM: [His violence ebbing away into defeat as quickly as it flooded.] You're right. So go on, then: groan 
again, Willie. You can do it better than me. [To Hally.] You don't know all of what you've just done . . . 
Master Harold. It's not just that you've made me feel dirtier than I've ever been in my life ... I mean, how do 
I wash off yours and your father's filth? . . . I've also failed. A long time ago I promised myself I was going 
to try to do something, but you've just shown me . . . Master Harold . . . that I've failed. [Pause.] I've also got 
a memory of a little white boy when he was still wearing short trousers and a black man, but they're not 
flying a kite. It was the old Jubilee days, after dinner one night. I was in my room. You came in and just 
stood against the wall, looking down at the ground, and only after I'd asked you what you wanted, what was 
wrong, I don't know how many times, did you speak and even then so softly I almost didn't hear you. "Sam, 
please help me to go and fetch my Dad." Remember? He was dead drunk on the floor of the Central Hotel 
Bar. They'd phoned for your Mom, but you were the only one at home. And do you remember how we did 
it? You went in first by yourself to ask permission for me to go into the bar. Then I loaded him onto my back 
like a baby and earned him back to the boarding house with you following behind carrying his crutches. 
[Shaking his head as he remembers. ] A crowded Main Street with all the people watching a little white boy 
following his drunk father on a nigger's back! I felt for that little boy . . . Master Harold, I felt for him. After 
that we still had to clean him up, remember? He'd messed in his trousers, so we had to clean him up and get 
him into bed. 

HALLY: [Great pain.] I love him, Sam. 

SAM: I know you do. That's why I tried to stop you from saying these things about him. It would have been 
so simple if you could have just despised him for being a weak man. But he's your father. You love him and 
you're ashamed of him. You're ashamed of so much! . . . And now that's going to include yourself. That was 
the promise I made to myself: to try and stop that happening. [Pause.] After we got him to bed you came 
back with me to my room and sat in a corner and carried on just looking down at the ground. And for days 
after that! You hadn't done anything wrong, but you went around as if you owed the world an apology for 
being alive. I didn't like seeing that! That's not the way a boy grows up to be a man! . . . But the one person 
who should have been teaching you what that means was the cause of your shame. If you really want to 
know, that's why I made you that kite. I wanted you to look up, be proud of something, of yourself . . . [Bitter 
smile at the memory.] . . . and you certainly were that when I left you with it up there on the hill. Oh, ja . . . 
something else! ... If you ever do write it as a short story, there was a twist in our ending. I couldn't sit down 
there and stay with you. It was a "Whites Only" bench. You were too young, too excited to notice then. But 
not anymore. If you're not careful . . . Master Harold . . . you're going to be sitting up there by yourself for a 
long time to come, and there won't be a kite in the sky. [Sam has got nothing more to say. He exits into the 
kitchen, taking off his waiter’s jacket.] 

WILLIE: Is bad. Is all all bad here now. 

HALLY: [Books into his school case, raincoat on.] Willie ... [It is difficult to speak.] Will you lock up for 
me and look after the keys? 

WILLIE: Okay. 

Sam returns. Hally goes behind the counter and collects the few coins in the cash register. As he starts to 
leave . . . 


36 



SAM: Don't forget the comic books. [ Hally returns to the counter and puts them in his case. He starts to 
leave again.] [To the retreating back of the boy.] Stop . . . Hally . . . [ Hally stops, but doesn't turn to face 
him.] Hally . . . I've got no right to tell you want being a man means if I don't behave like one myself, and 
I'm not doing so well at that this afternoon. Should we try again, Hally? 

HALLY: Try what? 

SAM: Fly another kite, I suppose. It worked once, and this time I need it as much as you do. 

HALLY: It's still raining, Sam. You can't fly kites on rainy days, remember. 

SAM: So what do we do? Hope for better weather tomorrow? 

HALLY: [Helpless gesture.] I don't know. I don't know anything anymore. 

SAM: You sure of that, Hally? Because it would be pretty hopeless if that was true. It would mean nothing 
has been learnt in here this afternoon, and there was a hell of a lot of teaching going on . . . one way or the 
other. But anyway, I don't believe you. I reckon there's one thing you know. You don't have to sit up there by 
yourself. You know what that bench means now, and you can leave it any time you choose. All you've got to 
do is stand up and walk away from it. 

Hally leaves. Willie goes up quietly to Sam. 

WILLIE: Is okay, Boet Sam. You see. Is . . . [He can't find any better words.] . . . is going to be okay 
tomorrow. [Changing his tone.] Hey, Boet Sam! [He is trying hard.] You right. I think about it and you right. 
Tonight I find Hilda and say sorry. And make promise I won't beat her no more. You hear me, Boet Sam? 

SAM: I hear you, Willie. 

SAM: And when we practice I relax and romance with her from beginning to end. You watch! Two weeks' 
time! "First prize for promising newcomers: Mr. Willie Malopo and Miss Hilda Samuels." [Sudden impulse.] 
to hell with it! I walk home. [He goes to the jukebox, puts in a coin and selects a record. The machine comes 
to life in the gray twilight, blushing its way through a spectrum of soft, romantic colors.] How do you say it, 
Boet Sam? Let's dream. [Willie sways with the music and gestures for Sam to dance.] 

Sarah Vaughan sings. 

"Little man you're crying, 

I know why you're blue, 

Someone took your kiddy car away; 

Better go to sleep now, 

Little man you've had a busy day." 

[Record continues to play.] 

You lead, I follow. 

The men dance together. 

"Johnny won your marbles, 

Tell you what we'll do; 

Dad will get you new ones right away; 

Better go to sleep now, 

Little man you've had a busy day." 


37